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Proposed Graduate Dorm in High Crime Area

By Daniel C. Stevenson

Building NW30, the site of a proposed 125-room graduate student dormitory on the northwest edge of campus, is in a relatively high-crime area, according to published Campus Police crime logs.

The crime figures are “startling yet not totally surprising,” said Graduate Student Council President Luis A. Ortiz G.

The building was listed as the site of more trespassing and loitering reports (14) in 1999 than any graduate or undergraduate dormitory. Other reported incidents include a dead homeless person found behind the building and two arrests, including one resulting from a fight. Full police logs can be found at <>

The three-story brick warehouse is located at 224 Albany St. at the corner of Pacific Street. It is close to the Cambridge and Somerville Program for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Rehabilitation shelter at 240 Albany St., which houses about 100 homeless people.

Ortiz described the site as being well situated for future expansion, especially with regard to the other planned graduate residence in the area. “This will be a great residential space once the northwest corridor of campus has been developed,” he said.

Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin acknowledged that safety was more of a concern in the Albany Street area than on Amherst Alley, for example. “If you walk out [of the proposed new dorm] at 1 a.m., you really need to take a shuttle,” she said.

The current level of criminal activity is actually an improvement on the past, Glavin said. The advent of a shuttle service in the past year to transport homeless people to and from the CASPAR shelter has significantly reduced their presence in the area, she said.

Echoing Ortiz, Glavin also asserted that as the area’s character changes from industrial to residential, the crime level will naturally decrease.

Safety key in planning

Glavin said the Campus Police would consider placing an additional emergency phone directly in front of NW30 if it were converted into a dormitory. Currently, the closest phone is across the street in a parking lot.

The Campus Police would also alter their patrol schedule in the area from random patrols to directed patrols with stops at NW30, Glavin said.

Additionally, the Parking Office would likely alter the Safe Ride schedule to include the new site. The Safe Ride shuttle currently stops several times along Albany Street, but not at NW30.

The company planning the renovation of the warehouse has been instructed to consider safety a key concern, said Associate Director of Planning Robert K. Kaynor. “Our expectation is that by the time the building opens, people will feel pretty confident,” he said.

Kaynor also said the Planning Office has had preliminary conversations with the Dean’s Office, the Graduate Education Office, and the Campus Police about how to address safety concerns.

The dormitory could open as early as August, 2001, with renovations costing 14-20 million dollars, Kaynor said.

Crime lower at other dorms

At Edgerton House, a 200-resident graduate dormitory one block away from NW30, police logs for 1999 show three incidents of trespassing, five assists of a homeless person to the CASPAR shelter, and five incidents of either an intoxicated person or a person causing a disturbance.

There was also a fight outside the dormitory, a homeless person attempted entry, and two people were arrested, including one juvenile for drug possession.

Criminal activity reported in the surrounding area -- Buildings NW12, NW13, NW14, NW16, NW17, and NW21 -- was also high, and consisted primarily of incidents of trespassing and assists to the homeless shelter.

In contrast, crime last year around graduate and undergraduate dormitories in other parts of campus focused on property theft, with significantly fewer trespass and disturbance reports.

In 1999, the outlying Eastgate and Westgate graduate residences had one and six incidents of trespassing, respectively, and Westgate had the only reported disturbance.

Ashdown House had only one report of trespassing. All of Amherst Alley had an additional six such reports and three arrests.

NW30 was built in 1904, and MIT acquired it from the Air Force in 1958. It is the former site of the Instrumentation Lab, now Draper Laboratory. The Institute has long planned to use the site for housing, but feasibility studies didn’t begin until last fall, Kaynor said.

MIT built the CASPAR facility for $1.9 million in 1993 as part of a deal with Cambridge. In exchange, MIT received ownership of one street and obtained the lease on three other streets and sidewalks around campus. The shelter was previously housed in trailers at the same site.